Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

How To Captivate Your Audience


We can speak to a group and then there is another level, where we try to captivate our audience. What makes the difference. The content could even be the same but in the hands of one person it is dry and delivered in a boring manner. Someone else can take the same basic materials and really bring it to life. We see this with music. The same lyrics, but with a different arrangement and something magical happens. This new version becomes a smash hit. Speeches are similar. A boring rendition is given a make over and suddenly has the audience enthralled. I am sure we would all vote for the enthralling version, so how to do we do that?

The quality of the argument we are going to present is important. We definitely need to design two powerful closes, one for the end of the speech and an extra one for after the Q&A. Importantly, we start from this point when designing the talk. We work out what is the most compelling message we want to leave with our audience and we start working backwards structuring the speech from here. Once we know what we what to say, we need to be gathering evidence to back up that assertion. We have to remember that statements are easy to make, but the listener needs convincing. We now do a rough sketch of the key points and the supporting evidence.
In a thirty minute speech, there won’t be so much time, so we might get through three or four of these key points and that is it. Now we make sure that the evidence is super strong, offering really compelling proof, to build credibility for our argument.
Next we work on a blockbuster opening. This has to compete with all the things running through the minds of our audience. The things they were doing before they got to the venue, the things they have to do after this speech. The hand held device is a modern day siren call, diverting their attention away from us, as they check email and social media. We have to smash through all that obstruction and clear a path so that they will hear our message. The first words out of our mouth had better be compelling or we will lose the battle for today’s minute attention spans. We need to carefully design what that will be.
We want our visuals on screen to be clear and comprehendible within two seconds. If it is taking the viewer longer than that, then they are too dense. Let’s keep the colours to an absolute maximum of three. Photos are great with maybe just one word of text added. This intrigues our audience to hear more. We can then talk to the point we want to make. If we use graphs, we should have only one per screen wherever possible. If we are going to use video, it had better be really, really hot and the transition from slide deck to video, back to slide deck has to be seamless.
Every five minutes we need to be switching the energy levels right up, to keep our audience going with us. This is key. Classical music has its lulls and crescendos and so should we. Naturally, we have tonal variety right throughout the talk, but we need to be hitting some key messages very hard, around that five minute interval. This needs to be combined with some powerful visuals on screen to drive home the point. This is not delivered by chance, good fortune or accident. We need to plan for this and structure the presentation so that this brings all the vocal and visual elements together at the same time, in a powerful, impressive way.
We are meticulously sprinkling stories throughout the speech to highlight the evidence we want to provide for our key points. Data by itself is fundamentally dull, but stories fleshing out the data are so much more scintillating. These should be full of stimulation for forming mental pictures in the minds of our audience. We sketch out physical locations, describe colours, talk about the season, mix in people they may know, explain the why of what is in the story. In this way we want our listeners to see the scene in their own mind as we explain the point of the story. It is a bit like reading a novel, after having seen the movie. As you read it, you can mentally imagine the scenes you saw previously on screen. This is the effect we are going for.
Our final close after the Q&A has to go out with a bang and not a whimper. We want a strong call to action. The final vocal delivery must finish on a rising upswing. Don’t let that very last sentence peter out at the end. Remember, we want to muster the audience to our cause. We want them to leave dyed in the wool supporters. We want them getting a tattoo with our name on it. Okay, I was getting a bit carried away there. That is probably too much, but you get the idea.
We need great structure, evidence, visuals, stories, pacing, energy, passion and belief in our presentation. The delivery is going to rock because we make it rock through rehearsal after rehearsal, until we have refined the whole thing into a symphonic triumph. That is how we need to be thinking to captivate our audience when we start constructing the talk. Begin with captivation in mind.


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